The aim of the French Case Study is to help a medium-sized cheese dairy and its affiliated farmers in Eastern France (Bourgogne Franche-Comté) to find innovative solutions to utilise whey and possibly generate income from it at regional level. Cheese whey, produced in small quantities and in geographically isolated areas, is often disposed of in wastewater treatment plants, sent to biodigesters or fed to animals. The idea of the case study is to offer an innovative way to use cheese whey by producing innovative fermented drinks based on whey and fruit juices, and by marketing and distributing them in returnable and reusable bottles.

During the last months, researchers at INRAE in Rennes and Laboratories Standa developed the drinks. The process was then adapted on a pilot scale and the drinks was produced by Enilbio in Poligny using whey from the Monts et Terroirs cheese dairy in Vevy (belonging to SODIAAL). The development was accompanied by market and consumer research to assess consumer acceptance of these drinks and the deposit system (Actalia Innovation and Petrel), and by environmental and economic assessments (INRAE, DSS+) to guide development choices.
The new drinks come in several flavours: sparkling with elderflower, apple or grape juice, and non-sparkling with apple/apricot or apple/raspberry fruit juice.

On 7 December 2023, the project partners met in Poligny with local stakeholders, representatives of cheese dairies, the Bourgogne France-Comté region, fruit juice producers and breweries. They tasted the drinks and enjoyed them! The progress made since the launch of the project is enormous.

What are the next steps?

What needs to be done now to popularize these innovative whey-based drinks is first consumer studies in real-life situations for a final assessment of acceptance, and then identification of the most appropriate business models. Finally, an environmental, social, and economic assessment of the new value chains for “whey-based drinks in returnable bottles” will be carried out with a focus on medium-term sustainability at regional level.